In the very recent decision, dated 27 March 2012, a member of the
aircraft crew working for an airline company was dismissed for
serious misconduct because he took drugs while he was on stopover
between two flights. Although his behaviour was calm and normal, he
was under the influence of drugs while performing his duties
throughout the second flight.
The employee claimed that his employer could not dismiss him on
the basis of facts occurring outside working hours and
The Cour de cassation ruled against the employee and
stated that as soon as the facts constituted a breach by the
employee of his contractual obligations, he could not be afforded
protection of his privacy. In the present case, the breach of the
employment contract was to be found in the obligation for an
aircraft crew member to ensure the safety of passengers. The fact
of being under the influence of drugs while being in contact with
passengers and potentially endangering them was considered as a
breach of contract.
The right to privacy is an important principle under French
employment law, and case law usually considers that employees
cannot be dismissed on the basis of facts occurring outside working
time and premises. Here, the Supreme Court made an exception to
this rule. However, this exception shall be assessed in relation to
the duties of the employee. The need to ensure the privacy of
employees should be balanced with the security of the individuals
they are obligated to protect.
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